Dublin, the capital of Ireland, is a city where the old town charm meets the decadent, trendy and vibrant atmosphere, rare to any other part of the country. Medieval castles, cathedrals and architectural wonders stand right next to the chaos of a bustling city. Live music, street performances and friendly locals greet you as you walk around exploring the cobbled stone streets and markets of the old town. Dublin is never quiet, be it day or night, weekday or weekend so no matter when you arrive here, you’ll get to experience the same energy and vibrancy. Here’s what to do in Dublin in 48 hours.
St Patrick's Cathedral
If you're covering Dublin in 48 hours, this is a good place to start. Built way back in the 12th and 13th centuries, the cathedral is one of the largest in Ireland. This was where St Patrick himself baptised the local Celtic chieftains and since then, the building has fallen prey to several tragedies such as fires and storms, leaving it damaged in parts. It has thus been altered many times, the last restoration being in 1860s. This is also where the literary legand, Jonathan Swift, was buried.
Both the architecture and the interiors of the cathedral are breathtaking. There is an entrance fee of €7 to visit parts of the cathedral, except the chapel. The best pictures of this Gothic masterpiece can be captured from the park right outside, where you can also enjoy a leisurely walk.
On Day 1 of your Dublin in 48 hours itinerary, this is the second stop, situated only a 10-minute walk away from St Patrick's cathedral.
Once home to the Vikings, Dublin Castle dates back to the 13th century. Although not one of the most impressive castles in Ireland, Dublin Castle's architecture is quite impressive and it makes for a good introduction to the history of Ireland. The castle has served as a military fortress, prison, treasury and a political centre for over 700 years. Today, it's an exhibition of the stately lifestyle as well as a centre for important events such as Presidential Inaugrations.
You have the option of a self-guided tour for €7 or a guided tour for €10 which lasts for about an hour. I would recommend to spend the extra €3 if you're interested in the history of the castle and how it's use evolved over a period of time.
Unfortunately, during our visit, the castle was shut for an event. We did enjoy a leisurely walk outside the castle though, marveling at the architecture. The castle is located right in the historic centre of Dublin and is thus, very easy to get to. It also makes for a great place to start your walking tour of the town.
Trinity College and Book of Kells
Another 10 minute walk from Dublin castle is Trinity College, the 3rd stop on your Day 1 of Dublin in 48 hours itinerary.
The history of Trinity College may or may not interest you, but the architecture and landscaping certainly will. Most of the buildings date back to the 18th and 19th centuries and the college was the learning ground of various literary legends such as Samuel Beckett, Oscar Wilde and Jonathan Swift. The entry to the college is free, however, there is a charge of €11 to enter the greatest treasure of the college – the Old Library housing the ‘Book of Kells’.
The ‘Book of Kells’ is an illuminated manuscript of the four Gospels of the New Testament, created in 800 AD by monks. The history of the book is highlighted in various columns inside the Old Library, but the most impressive part of this visit is the Long Room, the main chamber of the library which houses more than 200,000 old and rare literature.
Tip: The Old Library tends to be very busy during the peak summer months, with queues to enter. You may want to buy the Fast Track ticket for an extra €3. The visiting time is until 5 pm, so make it there in time, keeping at least an hour for your experience.
Irish Whiskey Museum (1 min walk)
Located right across the road from the entrance to Trinity College, is the Irish Whiskey Museum. A display of barrels of whiskey is what attracted me to step inside this museum. Although I am not much of a whiskey drinker (and have hardly any knowledge about it), considering how popular the Irish whiskey is, I decided to learn a bit about it myself. From the popular Irish brands such as Jameson, Teelings to some newer ones, a tour of this museum is interesting to learn about the origins of whiskey distilling in Ireland. You have the option to choose from a Classic Tour (€18) or a Premium Tour (€22), including 3 whiskey tastings.
My favourite part, however, was the retail shop that had the best collection of Irish whiskey chocolates I have ever seen!
You Dublin in 48 hours itinerary MUST include a visit to the most popular shopping street in Ireland since Victorian times. The Whiskey Museum marks the beginning of Grafton Street, lined with a variety of retail stores, cafes, souvenir shops, restaurants and hotels. This cobbled-stone street was also mentioned in Ed Sheeran’s song “Galway Girl’ in 2017, sparking a lot of interest and speculation about the ‘bar’ that he refers to. Be prepared to stroll amongst dense crowds, redbrick buildings, narrow by-lanes, upmarket stores and live artists performing on this pedestrianized street. It is the liveliest place in Dublin, next to only Temple Bar, with a chicer atmosphere and lesser rowdy crowd.
Optional: St Stephen's Greens
At the other end of Grafton Street lies Dublin's favourite park - St Stephen's Green, an area that was once used as a ground for public prosecution. Today, this landscaped centre-piece of Dublin is a local favourite due to its bucolic setting in the middle of a busy city.
Day trip to Howth
If you're exploring Dublin in 48 hours, a half-day trip to this small fishing village is a great idea. A scenic (partially coastal) 45-minute drive outside Dublin brings you to the idyllic village of Howth. The highlights here are the Howth Castle & Lighthouse but if you're a hiking enthusiast, there are some pretty cool picturesque trails here.
- Howth Castle
On your day trip in Howth, the Howth Castle is a good place to start. Although more than 800 years old, the castle is still inhibited by a historical family. You can, however, roam the castle's vicinity, where you will find a cafe, a restaurant and massive gardens (and a golf course) offering breathtaking views of the castle and the coast in the backdrop.
One can explore the interior of the castle as well but only through a private guided tour, available on Sundays during the summer months. Certain areas such as the Great Hall and dining room are open to the visitors on these guided tours and portraits, furnishings as well as artifacts on display are a good way to learn about the history of the castle.
- Howth Cliff Walk Loop
This very scenic and easy 6-km hiking loop starts from Howth Village's train station and is well marked. With clear views of the rugged coastline and passing through some pubs and restaurants, the leisurely walk can take you up to 2 hours, depending on your speed and number of stops. You can find more details about the hiking trail here.
- Howth Lighthouse
This lighthouse was a delight for the eyes and a catchy one for anyone visiting Howth. It was an extremely breezy day when we visited, despite the bright sun shining down on us. The charming lighthouse is a short walk from the car park on the ferry pier and on a clear day, you will have amazing views of Ireland's Eye island across.
- Saint Mary's Abbey
Not too far from the lighthouse is St Mary's Abbey, which although is shut itself, does allow you to walk in the abbey's ground, which offers amazing views of the cliffs, the coast and the Howth Lighthouse. The ruined church is still used for burials and is pretty impressive to look at.
Back in Dublin
Exploring Dublin in 48 hours can be a challenge and you need to pick and choose the places of interest as per your choices. If you're not satisfied with the time you've spent in Dublin, you may choose to skip the half day trip to Howth.
Since I am not much of a fan of beer, I skipped this one. However, this multi-storey brewery is an audiovisual and interactive exhibition covering all aspects of the brewery's history and the brewing process. You also get to taste a pint at the end of the tour. Read more about the experience here.
Ha'penny Bridge & Temple Bar
I really wanted to capture a picture of this lovely bridge at sunset but considering how late the sun sets in Ireland in summer, I could not manage to do so! The bridge is not as old as many other buildings in Dublin but has its own history. The name of the bridge is derived from the toll that its users were supposed to pay if they wanted to cross it (half penny). Before the existence of this bridge, the citizens had only the option of ferries to cross from one side to another. For the next 100 years, this only existing pedestrian bridge across River Liffey extracted toll frok its users, after which it was removed.
Until a few years back, several 'love locks' adorned this bridge but this led to damage and the love locks eventually had to be removed to ensure the safety and protection of this heritage bridge.
Located on the South Bank of Ha'penny Bridge is the famous street of Dublin called Temple Bar. A tour of Dublin in 48 hours will be incomplete without a visit to this lively, pulsating street which has some of the best pubs with live music and 'craic'- the Irish reference to having a good time. The red building of The Temple Bar is one of the most photographed (and most visited) bars of this street but there are several other places where you can enjoy great music, food and ambiance.
I visited a few pubs, in search for the perfect music and ambiance and chanced upon this really cool one, which I did not find in too many google searches but I absolutely adored it. The music was not traditional Irish but a mix of modern tunes with Irish instruments - a perfect blend I'd say. If you're in Dublin, do pay a visit to The AULD Dubliner. It was my favourite place, hands down.
Optional: Jameson or Teelings Distillery
Once again, if you're a whiskey enthusiast, you might want to visit and take a tour of one of the Whiskey Distilleries in Dublin. Both Jameson Whiskey and Teelings Whiskey have their distilleries in Dublin, not too far from the city centre and offer whiskey tasting tours.
Dublin in 48 hours: suggested budget places to stay
I found the hotels and apartments in the city centre extremely expensive to stay in! I did visit during the peak season (summer) and Ireland is overall quite expensive so I wasn't surprised. Since I had a car rented, I looked for a budget place which was not within the city centre but not too far either.
Closer to city: Dublin Viking's Place, located about 10 minutes drive away from the city centre, it is in a quiet location, in a residential area but near restaurants and supermarkets.
Closer to airport: White Sands Hotel, located in a coastal village called Malahide which has its fair share of pubs and restaurants (even a castle), only a 10 minute drive from the airport.
Dublin in 48 hours: commuting in the city
Note: Driving in Ireland was a pleasure but not in Dublin. The narrow lanes tend to get extremely crowded and traffic jams are common. Also, finding a parking in the streets can be next to impossible and although there are several multi-storeyed parking lots available, they're expensive to park your car in. If possible, avoid driving while you're in Dublin and rent your car only once you're ready to leave the city and explore the countryside.
You can purchase a Leap Visitor Card that allows you unlimited use of the public transportation in Dublin at a reduced cost and is valid on Airlink, Dublin Bus, Luas, DART, and Commuter Rail.
Click here to read about Driving the Ring of Kerry in Ireland.